Anchoring Adventures-“Poor Holding in Sand over Coral”

Tobacco Range, Belize

So there we were …

On Monday morning over the Northwest Caribbean Radio Net, we heard our friends from s/v Litbe check in. We met them last March during the great rescue-the-other-trawler-off-the-reef incident at Spruce Cay, and they also opted to spend hurricane season on the Rio Dulce, departing in October.

They told us they were on their way out to the atolls – Lighthouse and Glovers Reefs – and we thought it might be a good idea to have some company for the trip. We agreed to meet up at the south side of a teeny tiny little place called Rendezvous Cay, where we would meet the folks from Sea Biscuit and Come Monday. The day was stern and grey, with northerly winds from 15-20 knots that we had to head into. The fur princess was unhappy again, but only for a few short hours. [Read more…]

Happy Birthday to Me!

At Anchor
New Haven, Belize

We left Texan Bay Marina yesterday morning at 9:45, aiming for New Haven in southern Belize. The weather wasn’t all that great, overcast with some showers, but it matched our mood at saying goodbye to the Rio Dulce.

[Read more…]

A Pause in Texan Bay

Texan Bay
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

After a busy morning cleaning the dinghy, stowing provisions, washing down the boat, and otherwise organizing ourselves, we said our goodbyes and left Tijax for the Shell dock to fill our nearly empty tanks. Nestor, the security consultant at Tijax, had called ahead to the Shell station to ensure we could get our 700 gallons, but when we arrived, the proprietor told us the most we could have was 400. Luckily the Esso Station near Chiqui’s (Tienda Reed) was able to provide the last 300, so by 11:30, we set off down river for Texan Bay Marina, about seven miles from Livingston and the entrance to Rio Dulce. Emma Jo sure likes a full belly – she rides much lower and I swear, I can feel the difference her full tummy makes as we make our way over the lancha wakes. [Read more…]

Tijax Farewells

Hacienda Tijax
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Well, we’ve completed most of the items on our “before we leave the dock” list, including a major jaunt into Puerto Barrios for some serious grocery shopping. But the weather doesn’t seem to want us to go quite yet. There’s a long front extending from the mid-Atlantic coast of the US all the way through the Bahamas and down through the Gulf of Honduras, making for 20-25 knots of wind and 6 to 9-foot seas. Sorry – been there, done that – getting t-shirts made. We’re using the time to knock off a few more items from the list and socialize a little bit as we watch everyone making ready to leave.

Friday night, we hosted another barbecue out by the pool. It was pouring rain, but damn if cruisers are anything, they’re intrepid. With enough kerosene on the grill, steaks and shrimps were plentiful, and cruiser-brought treats were sufficient to satisfy all of us.

We had barely enough time to recover for the barbecue lunch hosted by Eugenio up at his farmhouse the next afternoon. Nestor, his Israeli security consultant, did all of the cooking – from perfectly grilled steaks to homemade hummus, tahini and flan. Several of Eugene’s staff were on hand as well, and it was wonderful to be able to thank them for such a wonderful stay.

After about a 5-hour lunch up at the finca, we were not at all hungry for dinner. So we joined Sid and Tuve of Blue Moon, Ken and Patti of Novena, and camped out on Alianna’s back deck with Sim and Rosie for more beer. We had only been there about a half an hour when we heard a frantic call to turn on the radio: there had been a collision between two lanchas under the bridge and someone was thrown into the water, reported missing.

Recently the editor of the Rio Dulce Chisme Vindicator, the online “newspaper” for gringos in the area, compared this area to the Wild West of the 1880s. That’s about the level of emergency service here. Coast guard? EMTs? Rescue divers? Fuggedaboudit. Lights on the river? Dream on. A local missionary who lives aboard a trawler and is fluent in English and Spanish was contacted by the Navy station a few miles up the lake, to see if he could coordinate a volunteer search. Sim and Ken, armed with as many flashlights as they could collect, along with our gas tank joined the searchers. There may have been 10-20 dinghies on the water, along with the navy lancha, who searched in the dark for about 90 minutes. The current under the bridge usually boils a bit, and creates whirlpools under certain conditions. And at 20 miles up from the ocean, there is not much tidal influence. The navy overestimated the flow, and the search was concentrated about a quarter to a half mile downriver from the bridge.

Needless to say, they did not find the man that night, and after about an hour, they knew if he hadn’t swum to shore and walked to a local bar for a drink, it was now a recovery rather than rescue mission.

We heard this morning that he had been found under the bridge. And that his fiancée, also in the lancha with him, had been thrown out of the boat as well, suffering propeller damage enough to kill her.

As a developing nation, Guatemala does have laws. Like running lights, speed limits and licences for lanchas. But they don’t have the manpower or resources for enforcement. The driver of the lancha responsible for the accident leapt into the water, swam ashore, and ran away. The locals probably know who he is, but he’ll never be caught, much less prosecuted.

I’ve been out in the dinghy at night, and have experienced narrow misses. The lancha drivers have this “more is better” attitude to engine size and speed. They think it’s cool that the bigger the engine, the higher up their bow goes. They operate solo, with nobody on the lookout up forward. When we’re out at night, we madly wave a flashlight around, hoping that the lancheros will at least notice us.

The river community is all abuzz about this incident, coupled with recent dinghy thefts. All it does is remind us that while we are relaxed and comfortable here, we can’t afford to be careless or complacent.

Rosie, Tuve, Patty, Me, Ans

We went out for a last shout with Ken and Patti of Novena, Sim and Rosie of Alianna, and Gerald and Ans of Spirit, to partake of the Sundog Happy Hour and dinner at Rosita’s. What wonderful luck we’ve had this year, with these fine folks as neighbors. We can only hope that our future is full of kindness and community like we’ve had here.

At the end of the day, it looks like we may head out of here on Thursday, November 8, sail downriver to “Texan Bay,” at the upstream edge of the gorge, and wait a day or two for the weather to calm down.

Getting Ready to Leave the Rio…

Hacienda Tijax
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

This month saw many of our neighbors flying back up north to visit friends and family before moving their boats– Ans and Gerald back to Holland – Rosie back to England – and many others doing the “grand tour” of Guatemala, to Tikal, Chichicastenango, Antigua and the like.

The cats and I simply stayed home, trying to busy ourselves with painting the deck furniture, varnishing the teak table before Ole got home, and project managing the construction and canvas projects we had contracted out to local craftsmen. Added to that were a bi-weekly zip across the river for happy hour at the Sundog Café (TWO gin and tonics for the hefty price of one – 75 cents!), a restaurant visit once a week or so, and the odd visit by our buddy Spiff, I was kept entertained. [Read more…]

Here’s the Beef!

Hacienda Tijax
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

The good news is that the repair to our boat is costing next to nothing by US standards — only $100 for the fiberglass work, and a total of about $200 for the wood repairs, which began early this month.
Oscar was also kind enough to recommend a canvas guy, Luis to help us reconstruct a new bridge cover and recover the flybridge cushions. Although he used the old one as a pattern, when he brought the new one over, it didn’t fit. Undaunted, he came back with his sewing machine, and sat on the dock fitting, cutting, and refitting until it worked. Unfortunately, he was a few snaps short (sounds like a mental condition, but it’s not) of a full bridge cover, so he has to make a special trip to Guatemala City for more. I’m so impressed with his work that we’re having a dinghy cover made to match. [Read more…]

Party, Party, Party…and Travel

Hacienda Tijax
Fronteras, Guatemala

With Ole’s 10 on/10 off schedule, we really have to cram life into a compressed schedule, and July was no exception.

For the Fourth of July we were invited to “Calamity Jane’s” birthday at the Crow Bar. Jane and her husband, Roy, have a Beebee trawler called Steel Magnolia, who came down here from Houston about a year ago. His boat is written up in the December 2006 issue of Passagemaker Magazine. A former newspaper owner, Roy has retired to manage the Crow Bar with Jane and run the Rio Dulce’s online newsmagazine Rio Dulce Chisme Vindicator. Crow Bar Marina has its own cast of characters, who were all on hand for barbecue and rum. [Read more…]

Tourists Doing the Rio Dulce Thing…

Hacienda Tijax
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Tijax filled up this month, with boats arriving from England, France, Holland, and the US. After casually meeting a few cruisers on the dock, Gerard (from France) took it upon himself to organize a cocktail party in the dining room at Tijax so we could all meet one another. The party was the same night Ole arrived home from Sovereign, so he missed the initial meeting, but came up to speed quickly as we organized a couple of private excursions.

The first was about an hour away from Fronteras – to a place called “Finca Paraiso.” It’s a private ranch that happens to include a river with volcanic hot springs. There were eight of us — two from England, two from Holland, two from France, Ole and I, who rented a mini-van and driver, carried picnic lunch in backpacks, and spent the better part of the morning in the river. [Read more…]

May is “Travel Month”

Hacienda Tijax
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

May was a busy travel month, celebrating two family birthdays and a wedding in the States.  From Tijax, via the internet, I booked travel from Guatemala City to Reno to Seattle to Orlando and back to Guatemala, over a three week period.

My sister Sara’s birthday was the tail end of April, and my Aunt Maybelle’s 90th birthday was in early May.  As both families live on the US West Coast, we opted to make Reno the rendezvous spot for both activities.  My lifelong friend Suzanne was able to join us at the Silver Legacy and the Peppermill (it helps on the rates to be a “frequent gambler”).  I hadn’t seen Suzanne since our trip to Bimini for Thanksgiving in 2005, so it was good to catch up. [Read more…]

A Gringa (Partially) Does Holy Week in Antigua

Easter Sunday
Tijax Marina
Fronteras, Guatemala

Nuestra Senora de la Merced

If we Americans are guilty of pageantry and associated gluttony at Christmas, we are only outdone by the magnitude of Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Guatemala in general, Antigua in particular.

Monday I took a shuttle van with our boat buddies Rosie and Don from Chickcharnie for the 6-hour trip to Antigua. The drive was amazing and relaxing in that someone else had to be responsible for negotiating the potholed mountain road and building holiday traffic. We arrived in Antigua at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and checked into a triple room at a private, restored 17th century colonial house run by the charming, outgoing Karla, who spoke no English but greeted us like long lost family. [Read more…]